The doctrine of the kingdom is based on the inspiration of the Word of God.
PROPOSITION 5. The doctrine of the kingdom is based on the inspiration of the Word of God.
The authenticity and credibility of the Scriptures has been ably defended in special treatises, so that, in order to define our position, it is only necessary to give a few observations on the connection that this kingdom sustains to inspiration. At the conclusion of this work, the subject will be resumed (e.g. Prop. 182), and, as a result, the credibility and inspiration of the Scriptures be evidenced by the continuous Divine purpose as shown in the kingdom.[*]
Note. Inspiration, while including, is not based on the genuineness and authenticity of the Bible, as Froude (Short Studies) has noticed; it is not established even fully by miracle and prophecy, although essential to the supernatural, for all religions claim these; but it is to be found (satisfactory to reason) in a revealed Divine purpose or plan, clearly announced, carried on for ages in the form and manner previously stated, the same being recognizable at any period in the existing history of the world, etc. Hence, e.g., Froude makes little of Colenso’s attack on the Pentateuch and of the replies to him, asserting that the genuineness and authenticity in ascription of human authorship has no relevancy to the deeper one of inspiration. He takes the position of a writer in the Westminster Review that any proof (as that derived from the discoveries of Rawlinson) of the truthfulness or knowledge of the Bible record, is no proof of Divine inspiration. It must be admitted that the orthodox party have sometimes too hastily concluded the inspiration of the Word from such isolated cases (seeing that a historical fact announced in the Bible may also be one in possession of fallible man); but, on the other hand, Froude and others forget that they themselves would employ historical inaccuracy as evidence against inspiration. The latter embraces the former. The truth is, that nothing will satisfy a class of critics; prove the genuineness and authenticity, and the reply is, that such may be the case, but it still is the sole work of man; prove the inspiration from doctrine, unity, design, etc., and the answer is, that the genuineness and authenticity is not yet proven, thus refusing, what they concede to be, the greater to include the lesser. Ebrard (Gospel Hist., p. 600) aptly says: “We are far from denying that there are men to whom no one could demonstrate the genuineness of the New Testament writings. He who will not believe in the Risen One will seek with unwearied diligence for loopholes by which he may escape from the positive proofs of the genuineness of the Gospel writings and the truth of Gospel history. The Gospel still remains to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness; and conversion and regeneration still form the porch of the understanding, even to the literary understanding, of the Scriptures. The Gospel, as Lange has well said, is so inexorably a critic to everything that springs from the flesh, that the flesh is stimulated to bring its negative criticism to bear against the Gospel in return.”
Obs. 1. All that we know of the covenanted kingdom was spoken by holy men of old as they were professedly moved by the Holy Spirit. The Bible, which contains the doctrine of the kingdom, asserts this as a fact. How is this fact to be fully recognized? When the man of science looks at the long-protracted labors of nature, how, in periods far distant, in countries far apart, in century after century, she has been uniform in her work, indicating continued unity of design and purpose amid the existing diversity, he reasonably concludes that the unseen but felt (in results) laws, by which she operates and controls all things, truly exist. The invisibility of them forms no objection to believing in them, because their effects are visible and commend themselves to him as satisfactory and conclusive evidence. The uniformity of their operation, especially, forces upon him the irresistible conviction of their reality. The Bible claims the same treatment. It is the product of what we call “inspiration;” and it asserts that the same invisible force or power that produced this “inspiration” is constantly exerted in its verification. Now, if we test this Biblical claim as we do the invisible laws of nature, it will also be found to possess a majestic reality. But how is this test to be applied? Surely not to the invisible law itself, for that cannot be handled, but to the effects that it produces, or to the results which it accomplishes. This can be done in two ways: either to have the effects or results personally appropriated, as in nature to see, touch, taste, and feel the same, and in religion to experience its force and power by reception of the truth; or else to imitate the man of science as above indicated. Taking the latter mode: as the scientist looks at nature, so let him survey the Word, and see how men, separated by ages, countries, languages, customs, habits, education, intelligence, position and rank, have continuously unfolded a redemptive plan; how they have stated and predicted the same things with a remarkable unity amid a diversity of style, language, etc.; how, when comparison is instituted, and the additions of one are attached to the other, a unity of Divine purpose is exhibited; how this unity was preserved in the events that occurred, in the religion that was established, in the Christianity that was founded, in the personal experience of believers, in the hostility of the enemies of the truth, in the progress of the Gospel, in the internal and external aspect of the Word itself: and then let him give an adequate cause for all these results. It has become prevalent in some quarters to leave the prophetical portion of the Word out of the question, on the ground that it would be difficult to show, either that the events were not antecedent to prediction, or that man had not shaped their course influenced by previous prophecy. Without yielding the solid and unanswerable arguments based on the past fulfilment of prophecy (to which God appeals), uttered as it was hundreds of years previously and fulfilled in persons and nations unconscious of their anterior defined destiny, we ask the reader to consider the present results of professedly inspired prophecy: Does not prophecy find its mate to-day? Look at prophecy what it foretells, and is it not verified in the continued present removal of the Jews from their land, in their scattering among the nations, in the existing times of the Gentiles, in Jerusalem and Palestine remaining under Gentile control, down-trodden and sadly cursed, in the Arabs continuing in their semi-civilized condition, in the existing Turkish rule, in the divided state and headless condition of the Roman Empire, in the Church with its institutions and ordinances, the gathering of an elect, the Antichrists or characters and powers portrayed in their antagonism. Compare these and similar fulfilments with the Record, and are they not described as things that shall occur; delineated too by writers, some of whom lived thousands of years and others at least eighteen hundred years ago; and realized in persons and nations who either know nothing of the predictions, or care nothing about them, or deny their credibility. If these things exist, and stand thus related to the Word, is it unreasonable to admit the claim of that Word—viz., that they were foretold by God through men who were inspired by God, and thus enabled to give them through the medium of language. Man himself has no power to foresee the distant future; God alone possesses it, and in aiding man respecting the unknown, He gives play to what is called “inspiration”—which is, an employing of powers and language, already existing, in stating Divine things, or things known only to God. Such a line of argument, briefly indicated, alone convinces us that the Bible is an inspired book, confirmed, as it is, by its reasonableness, necessity, historical and moral unity, worthiness of the Divine character, tendency and perfection.[*]
Note. These are given in Horne’s Introduction, Birk’s Bible and Modern Thought, Stowe’s Books of the Bible, Christlieb’s Modern Doubt, Elliott’s Treatise, Alexander’s Evidences, Spring’s Bible Not of Man, Butler’s Analogy, etc. We are old-fashioned enough to believe, with the primitive Church and a long line of revered names, that inspiration was confined to a few chosen individuals (2 Tim. 3:16; Acts 1:16; 2:30; Heb. 3:7; 9:8; 10:15; 1 Pet. 1:11; 2 Pet. 1:21, etc.), that instead of being general it was exceptional, confined to a limited number. And, moreover, so wedded are we to “the old ways,” that we believe that the highest possible proof of inspiration is that found in a personal appropriation of the truth, so that self-consciousness impressed by happy experience testifies in its favor. And in addition, we believe, on the one hand, that if the heart is indisposed to obedience all the reasoning in the world cannot change it to receive the Word as inspired; and, on the other, that a heart can be unaffected even when reason accepts of the Word as given by God. In reference to the latter unhappy class, it may be well said, in the expressive language of Bernard (Bampton Lec., The Progress of Doctrine, closing of Lec. 3d): “Does it wound our hearts to see this wondrous record misapprehended, its unity denied, its glory darkened? Perhaps it is a sadder sight in the eye of Heaven, when its inspiration is vindicated, its perfection appreciated, its majesty asserted by one who at the same time neglects the great salvation. Such a case is not impossible, perhaps is not uncommon. The day will declare it. At least, let it be remembered, that the study of the testimony is one thing, and the enjoyment of the salvation is another, and that the record of the things which Jesus did and said has attained its end with those only who believing have life through His name.”
Obs. 2. The doctrine of the kingdom is based on inspiration, because it is a doctrine which, as delineated, we ourselves, unaided, could never have produced and developed. It embraces (Prop. 2.) a Divine purpose or plan, extending from creation into the eternal ages. The things pertaining to the kingdom contain facts, preparatory stages, historical connections, relations to the future, ideas above human capacity, that could not possibly have been known if God had not revealed them. The kingdom is simply that which the Almighty designs to have accomplished as the grand result of the Divine economy. From the nature of it, its dependence upon God, its being the work of God and not of man, its having a theocratic king, we must go to God Himself to learn what it is, and how it shall be manifested. Man can only throw light on it as he gives us the ideas of Him who designed its establishment. The thoughts, purposes, and works of the Creator are not ours, and can only be known and appreciated to the extent in which He has deemed it proper to disclose them. Realizing this, we cannot do otherwise than consider an appeal, if well grounded, to the Scriptures on the subject, or a statement given by the Bible respecting the kingdom, as the essential proof required. Our belief has thus something to rest upon that does not come from fallible man, but from Him who overrules all things. An authoritative argument is, therefore, only founded on the express language of Scripture; and to it, consequently, application will be made, claiming that only in so far as the words of God are produced in substantiation of our doctrine, is assent also to be given. The ground of such a position and claim lies in the fact that “the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11), and that hence man can only know them as that Spirit has divulged them. Believing that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16), that “holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:21), our doctrine is exclusively derived from such inspired Scriptures. Through our entire argument this will be our posture, and finally in the concluding propositions, after having passed over the record, there will be submitted to the reader, as one of the strongest proofs of inspiration, the harmony and intimate connection existing in the historical progression relating to, and the doctrinal unity of, the kingdom.[*]
Note. There is no half-way house on the inspiration of the prophets, the utterances pertaining to doctrine and the Will of God. It is a dimming of the gold, a mere praising of the counterfeit, for persons to profess to accept of the utterances of Jesus and the sayings of the prophets under the color of a universal human or intellectual inspiration, to eulogize the same most highly, and yet deny a Divine inspiration. This, too, is done for purposes that are dishonorable; it proving an insidious and expert way to undermine Christianity. Simple honesty and integrity demand that such utterances and sayings should be received under the claim assumed of being divinely inspired, or else they should be rejected with the already declined belief in such inspiration. Alas, many are critical only to find fault, friendly only to stab more severely, lauding only to lower and demoralize; these are prevalent characteristics of the present day. Transformations into religious forms of thought, but meaning naturalistic things; professed worship of the divine but denoting nature; reverence for law and redemption but referring to the inexorable, immutable laws of the universe and human progress—these and similar phases are exhibited in those who magnify inspiration, but mean by it intellectual power or the force of genius. A careful perusal of the books of such writers leaves the decided impression that all such would greatly rejoice in the downfall of Christianity. The laudation of such authors by the Church is a weakness; for while disinclined to treat them with scorn or abuse, yet those who dishonor Christ in this way deserve—however they may praise Christ as a mighty genius. Reformer, etc.—no eulogy from believers. If the Scriptures are to be received at all, they must, in consistency, be received as the Word of God. This, and this reiterated, is their foundation, and it cannot be ignored or transformed. And this too should not be applied to any other book; hence those theories which extend inspiration to eminent men are antagonistic to the truth. Recently, in an edition of Bunyan’s works, we are gravely told: “Bunyan’s thoughts are inspiration of God,” an idea which Bunyan would have rejected as abhorrent. The Christian Union (May 21st, 1877) makes inspiration to be in all things created, and it “runs through all ages, all climes, all nations.” It scouts the idea of inspiration being exceptional, and says: “The Bible is more than a work of genius; it is the work of God, but of God speaking in the experiences of the devoutest and best instructed souls; of a God who is not merely here and there, in special men and places, but is All in all.” This Pio-pantheistic theory is very prevalent. The looseness with which “inspiration” is attributed to all believers—the same in kind, but probably not in degree, that was given to holy men of old—is well illustrated in Beecher’s sermon (Christian Union, April 10th, 1878), “Inspiration Immanent and Universal.” We reproduce but a sentence: “So then, when you ask me if the inspiration which men receive from God nowadays is the same which men received from Him in olden times, I say that it is the same in kind. If you ask me, whether it is the same in authority, I say yes, so far as their own conduct is concerned,” etc. Compare a criticism of Morell’s Philosophy of Religion (North Brit. Review, August, 1849), who, while rejecting the extreme of Gerhard, Buxtorf, and others (who made even the vowel points inspired), falls into the opposite one of making inspiration to consist, not in the communication of God’s will but in reception. What distinction can be drawn between such utterances, and those of confirmed unbelief, as expressed e.g. in F. W. Newman’s History of the Hebrew Monarchy, or Greg’s Creed of Christendom, which make inspiration to be a sort of “divine afflatus” peculiar to all men, specially believers and men of genius. Thus Greg (p. 226 and 235) remarks: “When it is His will that mankind should make some great step forward, should achieve some pregnant discovery, He calls into being some cerebral organization of more than ordinary magnitude, as that of David, Isaiah, Plato, Shakespeare, Bacon, Newton, Luther, Pascal, which gives birth to new ideas and grander conceptions of the truths vital to humanity.” “In a true and simple, but not orthodox sense, we believe all the pure, wise, and mighty in soul to be inspired, and to be inspired for the instruction and elevation of mankind.” As illustrated in Greg himself. This is but a reproduction of Parker, who affirmed: “It (inspiration) is coextensive with the faithful use of man’s natural powers. Now this inspiration is limited to no sect, age, or nation. It is wide as the world, and common as God. It is not given to a few men in the infancy of the world to monopolize inspiration and bar God out of the soul.”
Obs. 3. Deny the inspiration of the Word, and then it becomes merely the word or conjecture of man. The kingdom predicted in its pages may then fail, because man is liable to mistake. It also will not answer to save inspiration by the principle of accommodation (Farmer), or by arbitrary exegesis (Storr), or by moral interpretation (Kant), or by allegorical interpretation (Steir), or by pan-harmonic exposition (German), or by confining it to essentials (Herder), or by embracing mere belief and elevation of soul (De Wette), or by making it talent developed by speculation (Schelling), or by constituting it a rational spirit which receives more and more its due form in succeeding works (Billroth), or by contending for a verbal inspiration (Dick), or by restricting it to intuitional truths (Morell), or by identifying it with genius under the influence of truth (Parker)—because none of these find a support either in the grammatical sense, or in the declarations respecting inspiration in the record itself, or in the contents of the Scripture taken as a whole. Formerly, too, inspiration was utterly denied and derided by infidels; at present, under the assumed leverage of comparative religion, they have shifted their ground, and in numerous works admit that it is inspired, but with the same kind of inspiration that accompanies all truth and all human efforts; some even adding, that men have existed and now exist who possess this inspiration to a greater degree than the prophets and apostles. Some, through a refined pantheistic theorizing, make it to proceed from God and loudly boast of their God-given, Spirit-derived inspiration. While all this profession and misuse of old terms cannot affect the intelligent believer, it is eminently calculated to deceive and mislead the multitude. What makes the rebutting of such claims the more difficult is the unfortunate and ill-considered position occupied by otherwise able leaders of Christianity. On the one hand, the extreme so strenuously contended for by some, that even the words themselves were inspired, is evidently burdening inspiration with a load that is unnecessary. Indeed, in the light of the modest introduction of Luke (Luke 1:1–3), the request of Paul for his MSS. and cloak, the personal references of Paul and John, the salutations, the special (1 Tim. 5:23) recommendation to Timothy, the unimportant variations in the gospels, the differences in MSS., no two being exactly alike, the retention of a distinctive personal style, the difference of relation of the same event—these things, dispassionately considered, go far to show that we must not necessarily assume that every word or sentence is inspired. On the other hand, the concessions made by many intrude doubt and undermine confidence in the credibility and inspiration of the Old and New Testaments. Some e.g. maintain that only a small portion is directly inspired, the rest being of human origin; others, that the record that we now have is given from recollection of a previous inspired one; some, that the main truths were given by revelation but are incorporated with much that is human appended to it, including even error; others, that the inspiration only consisted in a restraining influence from error in general, or a guidance into truth without removing the possibility of falling into error; some that the moral portion is alone inspired (which some contend is an inspiration common to all religions); others, that it only consists in the Divine approval and adoption of writings composed by men, because of the important truths contained. The most fanciful conjectures, without proof, are submitted as theories to satisfy the demands of inspiration. The only safe conclusion to which a believer in the Word can come, amid the variety of conflicting opinions and on a subject which certainly has its difficulties, is to adhere to the utterances of the Word itself concerning it, and to frame a definition which neither exceeds nor lessens the extent given to it by Scripture. There is no reason why the definition given (e.g. by Horne, vol. 1, Introd. p. 92) long ago should be discarded—viz., that it is “the imparting such a degree of Divine assistance, influence, or guidance, as should enable the authors of the Scriptures to communicate religious knowledge to others, without error or mistake, whether the subjects of such communications were things then immediately revealed to those who declared them, or things with which they were before acquainted.” A definition which embraces the ideas taught, freedom from error, an essential unity in teaching, sufficiently covers the ground. Taking the Scriptures as they teach, we must, if believers in the same, receive them as given, even under the peculiar style, learning, disposition, etc., of the writers, through a Divine guidance and aid, so that they contain revelations imparted, through human mediums, by the Holy Spirit; and that the ideas or truths are portrayed in words familiar to the writers, and sufficiently precise in expression to give a correct meaning to what God intended. Taking such a view, it is not necessary to insist that every specific word or phrase or sentence is directly inspired; that God gave no freedom to the writer in choice of language, and no latitude in the manner of conveying ideas. There may even here be an exception. In covenants, promises, distinctive prophecies, etc., asserted to come directly from God in messages to individuals, we may reasonably affirm, that being of special importance and significance, and coming thus from God, the ideas themselves would be clad in language suggested by the Spirit. The longer a student compares Scripture with Scripture, the more will he become impressed that even in the very language of the more important and essential portions of the Word a peculiar care has been exercised in their choice, resulting in a harmony that cannot otherwise be explained.
Note 1. Thus e.g. Baylee, Verbal Inspiration, Tregelles in Preface to The Book of Revelation, Gaussen’s Theopneustie, Haldane’s Verbal Inspiration, Lord’s Plenary Inspiration of the Scriptures, and others. “The Believer’s Meeting for Bible Study” laid down (The Truth, vol. 4, No. 10, p. 452) the following as essential: “We believe ‘that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God,’ by which we understand the whole of the book called the Bible; nor do we take the statement in the sense in which it is sometimes foolishly said that works of human genius are inspired, but in the sense that the Holy Ghost gave the very words of the sacred writings to holy men of old; and that His divine inspiration is not in different degrees, but extends equally and fully to all parts of these writings, historical, poetical, doctrinal, and prophetical, and to the smallest word and inflection of a word, provided such word is found in the original manuscripts. 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 2 Pet. 1:21; 1 Cor. 2:13; Mark 12:26, 36, and 13:11; Acts 1:16 and 2:4.” These brethren, avoiding one extreme, certainly fall into another by pressing the word “all” (comp. usage in Scripture) to denote “the very words” and “the smallest word and inflection of a word,” thus loading the doctrine of inspiration with a burden that the Word does not impose. The statements in the Obs. already indicate this, but it may be added, that the repetitions of the same ideas (said to have been delivered at the same time and place, and stated to have been given “in these words”), with decided verbal discrepancies, show that the thought was inspired and some latitude (covering style, personal peculiarities) was allowed to its expression—the sense is the same, although differently expressed. Moreover if this verbal theory be correct, then it plunges us into the greatest difficulties to ascertain what is Scripture or inspired. No translations can be really the Word of God, for the words in which the same was given are replaced by a substitution. More than this: what original MS. is then authoritative and infallible, seeing that no two (of the ancient) are alike in their verbal statements. (It seems to the writer that if the theory were true, then God would have providentially preserved a sufficient number of MSS. to be indicative of the fact.) The reason assigned by Lord. Carson, and others, in favor of verbal inspiration being founded on the supposition that thoughts are only conveyed in words, is sufficiently met by various writers, e.g. article on “Inspiration” in M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopędia. Rev. Dr. Sprecher (Groundwork of Theol., p. 383, etc.) rejects a mere mechanical theory and adopts “the Plenary Inspiration of the Scriptures, as extending to words as well as things,” but he explains and modifies as follows: “The Bible, with all its ideas and all its words, is God’s book of revelation; that is, He so moved, influenced, controlled, and used the faculties, the mode of thought, and the style of language of the sacred writers, as to make them His organs through which to give a written revelation of His Word, of the plan of salvation. They did not speak as they were dictated to, but they did speak as they were moved by, the Holy Ghost.” He thus unites the human and divine elements in a definition, which he thinks (p. 385 and 389) is consistent with “the little discrepancies and inaccuracies which some think they see in the minor details of historical circumstances, etc.” Being “moved by the Holy Ghost” does not necessarily imply that the Holy Ghost, in all cases, taught or dictated the identical words used, for it seems that in connection with inspiration (guarding the truths pertaining to salvation) an inspired man could, as Paul evidences, introduce matter suggested by his own mind (e.g., in reference to marriage, greetings, remembrances, direction to Timothy respecting his health, requests concerning personal matters). Our position is fortified by Luke’s introduction to his Gospel; by the liberty allowed (preserving the idea) of quoting from the Septuagint when differing (thus indicating mere human origin unless the translators were also divinely inspired, which no one affirms) from the Hebrew; by the differing phraseology in which the same language (said to have been uttered at the same time) and the same events are recorded; by the compression of detailed matter previously given; and by the manner in which some of the writers refer to their own writings, claiming a distinct personality in their construction.
Note 2. It is a sad illustration of human infirmity to notice not only how inspiration has been interpreted, but even claimed from the earliest period down to the Spiritualists and Parker school. Between those who claimed (Prop. 4, Obs. 3 and notes) the direct Divine influences of the Holy Spirit, and Parker (Discourses, p. 160–5), who asserted that God, more or less, inspires all men, there are indeed great diversities, but they can all be traced back to a mystical, transcendental, Gnostical element held in common. They differ only as to the agency employed and the degree experienced. Parker, e.g. would undoubtedly recoil from the extravagances of the Philadelphian Society established by Pordage (1651), the mummeries of Antoinette Bourignon, Jane Lead, Poiset, Hoker, “the navel light” or illuminations mentioned by Dr. Young (Stilling), the vagaries of the French prophets (1708–30), the Irvingites, the Inspiration Congregation of Wetteraw (Kurtz, Ch. His., vol. 2, p. 277), the Shakers, the Mormons, Swedenborgians, Inspirationists of Iowa (Nordhoff’s Communistic Societies), etc., but they all held to an “inward vision”—a reception of the divine—and this is precisely what Parker and others do, only in an ordinary manner and not in the extraordinary asserted by these enthusiasts. The difference is, that the one occupies a lower plane than the other, but they all agree that outside of the Bible, in their own persons, through a divine bestowal, they also have inspiration. All that profess themselves to be inspired and not entirely dependent upon the inspiration of the Word, can be legitimately placed in the same category. The Renan, Parker idea of inspiration is only a revival of an old opinion. The Spiritualists claim that through their mediums and writers they obtain “Living Gospels from Modern Saints.” A specimen can be seen in Davis’ Sacred Gospels of Arabula, forming Inspirations of Original Saints. Owen, the most moderate, still asserts (Deb. Land, p. 242, etc.), that this continued inspiration may be mixed with error. The London Spiritual Magazine has for its motto: “It (Spiritualism) recognizes a continuous divine inspiration in man.” A convention of Spiritualists at Rochester, N.Y., September, 1862, in a resolution said: “That no inspired communication in this or any other age (whatever claims may be or have been set up as to its source) is authoritative any further than it expresses truth to the individual consciousness—which last is the final standard to which all inspired or spiritual teaching must be brought for judgment. That inspiration, or the influx and promptings from the spiritual realm, is not a miracle of a past age, but a perpetual fact, the ceaseless method of the divine economy for human elevation.” The Lyceum (Toledo, O., vol. 1, No. 11) says inspiration is a product of “the immortal souls of mortal men,” and says that instead of ceasing, “inspiration has increased, for man has attained higher spiritual development than he enjoyed in past ages.” There is a large and growing class of able writers (Dean Stanley, Robertson, Service, Jukes, Brown, etc.), who endeavor to soften down and apologize for numerous statements in the Word, on the ground of making allowance for the age, the traits of character of the writers, ignorance, etc. To illustrate: Mozley’s Ruling Ideas in Early Ages, and their Relation to Old Testament Faith, interprets the Old Testament in such a manner, in accommodation to prevailing beliefs influencing the writers, that we must often reject the letter, but still can—if we wish to—hold fast to the spirit. This sets aside all inspiration, excepting that which is common to all books. German destructive critics, in order to eulogize and magnify Naturalism (which to them is a sufficient divinity), teach a “Natural inspiration,” because it can be made subservient to the removal of the supernatural and miraculous element. “Broad Church Liberalism” in The Monthly Religious Magazine, (quoted Princeton Review, January, 1861, p. 84) lauds the writers of Essays and Reviews, whose pernicious tendencies are so apparent and widespread, and gives the epitome of their teaching: “Their doctrine is, that the race is a collective man, to outgrow, in time, the regulative discipline of childhood, and be moved by the spirit within, and not subject to authority without: that the Bible is not a book of plenary inspiration, or Christianity a universal religion, specially authenticated in Palestine: but that God inspires men ever and anywhere; that there is only one kind of inspiration, and all good men have it, as well as prophets and apostles; and that the doctrines of the Church, such as the Trinity and the fall of man, are to be held in the light of a ‘philosophical rendering.’ ” Gail Hamilton (What think ye of Christ?) affirms an inspiration common to all men, and gives us no infallible, authoritative Word. Greg (The Creed of Christendom) allows that in religious doctrine the writers may have been guarded against error, but even vitiates this by allowing human judgment to decide what is, or is not, inspired. Thus writers from the earliest period down to Priestley, and from him to Renan, have either denied inspiration, or made it universal, or attached to it such limitations as practically to lessen our confidence in scripture statements. This work is widening and extending, men and women, talented and learned, unbelievers and professedly believers, are engaged in it, presenting definitions and distinctions which are designed to undermine and destroy the teaching of the Word.
Note 3. For alleged error and discrepancies, see works like Horne’s Introd., Birks’ Bible and Mod. Thought, etc., specially devoted to their consideration. The argument of this work is intended to develop from the doctrine of the kingdom alone, a sufficient proof for inspiration in the remarkable unity of doctrinal teaching, and of the revealed Divine Purpose. This materially confirms the reasoning of Birks, Horne, etc., and also shows that the variations of MSS. (pointed out by the warmest friends of inspiration, but now seized by destructive criticism) are only incidental in transmission, and do not affect a single doctrine. As illustrative of the diversity of views entertained, the reader’s attention is called to the six articles on the question “What is Inspiration?” in the North American Review (1879). Rev. Dr. Hedges’ view virtually degrades the Bible, for, making inspiration to be equivalent to faith and its expression, or the outgrowth of a divine higher life, he reaches this conclusion: “There are other Bibles than those which contain the records and the types of the Jewish and Christian faiths.” This leaves us no authoritative and infallible rule. Rev. Dr. Washburn denies a verbal inspiration; waives the question “What is Inspiration?” and simply appeals to Christian experience as evidencing inspiration. Rev. Giles makes inspiration to consist in the truths revealed by the Lord to man, and “a man is inspired when the Lord takes such possession of his mind and utterance, that he writes or speaks what the Lord commands him; and what he so writes or speaks is divine truth in natural forms.” He does not sufficiently discriminate between inspiration and its resultant, and attaches to his view the Swedenborgian idea of “correspondences.” Rev. Newman affirms inspiration to be “a divine revelation” which did not depress or silence the individuality of the sacred writers, and which led into all truth. Sometimes the thought was divine and the language human; again in some instances so direct was the influence of the Spirit that both thought and language were divinely impressed; and then again utterances were given without divine aid, “as when St. Paul expressed his intention to visit Spain but was providentially hindered, as when he had forgotten whether he had ‘baptized any other,’ as when St. John expressed the uncertainty of hope: ‘I hope to come to you.’ ” The sacred writers were aided in “recollection,” in “suggestion,” and in “revelation,” and this assistance presents us with an infallible record. The article is excellent, and the only serious objection to be urged against it, is, that he allows a continuation of inspiration by the same Spirit down to the present day, which (however guarded by the expression. ‘No original truth has been given since John wrote his Apocalypse”) is too much in favor of unbelieving, and special Spirit-derived, claims. The fifth article, by the Most Rev. Gibbons (Archb. of Baltimore) says: “To the question ‘What is Inspiration?’ a Catholic theologian would answer, that it is a supernatural help whereby God, at various times, down to the end of the Apostolic age, enlightened the minds of certain men that they might know the truths which He wished to deliver in writing to His Church, and moved their wills to write them and nothing else. Thus raised to a supernatural level, these penmen, through divine assistance, fulfilled with unerring accuracy the counsel of God, and consequently is He truly said to be the author of these books.” (The critical student will be interested in noticing that he expressly asserts that no books, saving those thus given, whatever truth they may contain, can become Scripture and thus infallible authority—and that inspiration is limited “to the end of the Apostolic age.” How this bears upon making tradition authoritative with the Scriptures is easily seen, and how it opposes the claim of his Church to continued inspiration can readily be appreciated.) The article is excellent in many respects and ably meets some of the erroneous statements made in the previous ones, but is vitiated by making the Church the infallible interpreter of the inspired Word. The last article, by John Fiske, is from the unbelieving stand-point, and makes the Bible the work of fallible men, denying divine inspiration and refusing to look at the Scriptures as a whole. These and other attempts to define inspiration remind us that since the Scriptures are silent as to the modus operandi, any effort to explain must simply remain conjecture. Whatever truth there might pertain to degrees in inspiration or to no degrees (simply quantity—so Whately) in the same, to superintendence, suggestion, direct revelation, invigoration of memory, etc., one thing is self-evident that the Scriptures themselves claim—what we must allow—a Plenary (i.e., full, complete) Inspiration, which being miraculous, is, as to mode, above our comprehension, but commends itself to us by its results as evidenced in the book itself, in the history of mankind, and in the personal experience of believers. (Comp. the writings, on inspiration, of Elliott, Candlish, Harris, Eadie, Henderson, Wescott, Dick, Lord. The North Brit. Review, Nov. 1st, 1852, Browne, Ellicott, Woods, Haldane, etc.)
Note 4. Dean Alford’s (Gr. Test.) view of Inspiration, thus amended, seems to be near the truth. Such an emendation is required by the greater importance of such portions over others. Thus e.g. in the Covenant the singular “seed” is purposely chosen instead of the plural form, which would the most naturally suggest itself to man. The singular is remarkably significant, and, as traced, demanded in God’s plan. Prof. Christlieb in his address, “Mod. Infidelity,” before the Ch. Alliance, has some good remarks on Inspiration and also discriminates between portions of the Word. Compare Horne’s Introd. Ap. vol. 1, p. 443, etc., Knapp’s Theol., Birks’ Bible and Mod. Thought, Van Oosterzee’s Ch. Dogmatics, etc. The human element must not be discarded, just as little as the language employed, but while this presents us peculiar, distinctive traits and characteristics, it at the same time includes freedom from positive error. Hence Bp. Goodwin’s concession that inspiration may be consistent with inaccuracy in physics, etc., must be rejected; for no inspired book can contain decided error, although, without explaining, it may employ language and ideas, as currently understood and comprehended, which, from a purely scientific view, is not scientifically correct. This is done, more or less, by all writers, and is an accommodation to the human element. Hence Webster’s and Wilkenson’s (Introd. Gr. Test.) definition is objectionable: “It will be understood, that an inspiration which may be truly characterized as direct, personal, independent, plenary, is consistent with the use of an inferior or provincial dialect, with ignorance of scientific facts and other secular matters, with mistakes in historical allusions or references, and mistakes in conduct, and with circumstances forming discrepancies between inspired persons in relating discourses, conversations, or events.” We fail to see how all this can be consistent with inspiration. If true, it leaves us no infallible guide. The truth lies in a due medium between those extreme views, recognizing the human element on the one hand, and on the other the Divine, and the latter as so controlling that nothing is presented to justify decided error.
Prof. Stowe (The Books of the Bible, p. 19) after stating that the Bible is not a specimen of God’s skill as a writer, adds: “It is not the words of the Bible that were inspired; it is not the thoughts of the Bible that were inspired; it is the men who wrote the Bible that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man’s words, not on the man’s thoughts, bat on the man himself; so that he, by his own spontaneity, under the impulse of the Holy Ghost, conceives certain thoughts and gives utterance to them in certain words, both the words and thoughts receiving the peculiar impress of the mind which conceived and uttered them, and being in fact just as really his own, as they could have been if there had been no inspiration at all in the case. The birth and nature of Christ afford an exact illustration. The holy Infant in the womb of the Virgin, though begotten of God directly without any human father (as it was said, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee’)—this Infant lived by his mother’s life, and grew by the mother’s growth, and partook of the mother’s nature, and was just as much her child as he could have been if Joseph had been his father, the human and the divine in most intimate and inseparable conjunction. It is this very fact of the commingled and inseparable union of the human and divine which constitutes the utility, which makes out the adaptedness to the wants of men, both of the incarnation of Christ and of the gift of the Word. Inspiration generally is a purifying and an elevation and an intensification of the human intellect subjectively rather than an objective suggestion and communication; though suggestion and communication are not excluded.”
Obs. 4. Occupying this position at the outset, we insist upon it that the apostles were fully and accurately acquainted with the doctrine of the kingdom, i.e., as to its nature, and hence were qualified to teach it. Aside from their being specially called to preach the kingdom, this inspiration influence bestowed upon them (e.g., Luke 12:12, John 16:13, 14, 15, Luke 24:49, 1 Cor. 2:12, 13, Eph. 3:4, 1 Pet. 1:12, etc.) would most certainly preserve them from error on this great, leading subject of the Bible. This becomes the more important, seeing that unbelievers, on all sides, declare that they were mistaken, pointing to the history of the Church as proof; and that many of the greatest Christian Apologists (Neander, etc.) admit that they misconceived the subject, misapprehended the doctrine, and refer us to the same history as evidence, but endeavor to save the credit of the apostles by a philosophical development theory. The express declarations of the apostles themselves that they were guided by the Spirit, the positive promises given to them to guide them into the truth, forbid our receiving such estimates of the apostles’ knowledge. While they undoubtedly could receive additional revelation from time to time as circumstances demanded, yet this has nothing to do with their knowledge of the nature of the kingdom. The gospel of the kingdom was preached by them before and after the death of Jesus; it was a familiar subject, leading and fundamental, and therefore one that they must have known sufficiently to describe it without mistake or decided error. The object of this work of ours is to show this, by an appeal to Scripture, receiving the plain grammatical sense as our guide, and thus vindicate the inspired teaching of the apostles both against the charges of infidels and the unwarranted concessions of Apologists. The reader, after passing over the entire proof presented, can see for himself whether this is successfully done or not. It would be premature to decide on the amount of knowledge possessed by the apostles respecting the nature of the kingdom, without first allowing the testimony contained in the Bible to be duly considered and weighed.[*]
Note. There is a large and growing class of works (like e.g. Draper’s, Leckey’s, etc.) which endeavors to break the force of Scriptural inspiration by caricaturing Religion and Christianity. The latter are made synonymous with bigotry, intolerance, superstition, ignorance, and persecution, and this caricature—which is not Christianity—is attacked and in their own way satisfactorily demolished. The unreflecting—who never consider that inspiration itself long before foretold these things and warned us against them—are impressed by the illogical reasoning and deductions. It is sufficient to say that all the painful evidences of human infirmity and passion, so learnedly paraded by these men, are most pointedly condemned by inspiration. (In view of this, Cook—Lects. on Biology, p. 183—calls Draper’s “His. of Conflict,” etc., “a most painfully unfair volume.” Fiske in the Unseen World—himself an unbeliever—severely criticises Draper’s method, saying: “the word ‘religion’ is to him a symbol which stands for unenlightened bigotry or narrow-minded unwillingness to look facts in the face,” adding: “it is nevertheless a very superficial conception, and no book which is vitiated by it can have much philosophical value.”) The perversions and misinterpretations of Christianity are not Christianity; the tares mixed with the wheat do not change the latter; religion because abused and distorted is not the less a reality; the multitude (Matt. 7:22, 23, etc.) who simply profess to do God’s will and do it not, only stand in contrast (Matt. 7:24–27, etc.) with “the few” (Matt. 7:14; 20:16, etc.) that are truly obedient and faithful.
Obs. 5. The reader, also, is urged to suspend his judgment until he comes to the majestic end designed by the kingdom of God, received in its strict grammatical sense. Unbelief is not willing to wait until the mystery of God is finished; it is not desirous of contemplating the grand end designed; it is afraid to study the Divine plan as unfolded in this doctrine of the kingdom to its consummation, but (as Strauss, Bauer, Renan, Froude, etc.) criticises details without noticing their connection with the end contemplated, and rejects the whole without due examination because of alleged flaws in the individual parts. The design intended is kept out of view, and the Divine plan which binds all together is sedulously ignored. The building which God determines to erect is not observed, but attention is directed exclusively to the material gathered, the preparations made, etc., without observing the architectural plan and the connection that such gathering and preparation sustain to the end. Is this wise or prudent? Is it doing justice to the Word of God? Perfection, completeness, is not found in transmissions, transcriptions, translations, human language, details, etc., but only when the whole plan, entire design, is received. It has been justly observed by Martensen (Ch. Dog., p. 77), that “the teleological is the fundamental category of thought in its developed state,” and “in its deepest significance it is the category of Christianity itself.” The deepest thinkers take this ground, that immediate causes or present agencies must be considered as moved “by the eternal rational ends” which God purposed, and that we cannot even properly appreciate present realities without looking into the future to see what results are to be gained by them. This gives prophecy—which points to the end to be attained—and eschatology—which portrays the end—a deep significance and prominency.[*]
Note. Apologists (e.g. Row, Ch. Evid., p. 92, etc.) have well stated that Christianity differs from all other religions in that it is based on the personal life of its Founder, and not, as others, on mere dogmatic teaching. The founders of other religions (over whom unbelief professes to go into ecstacies, provided they can be employed to disparage the life of Jesus) may be left out of their respective systems without affecting them, but Jesus, “the Christ,” cannot possibly be removed without destroying Christianity. Upon this fact, valuable proof corroborating Divine inspiration is based. But we assert that the doctrine of the Theocratic Kingdom, in which Jesus is the central figure, brings forth equally forcible evidence in behalf of the same, seeing that in this kingdom exists the realization of that for which He came, labored, died, etc., and for which He shall return again. The apologetic argument limits itself too much to the past and present, and overlooks the life of David’s Son in His own inheritance as predicted; whereas we extend our view to the future life as portrayed to us in this kingdom, and, from the perfected Redemption and the consummated Glory revealed, draw forth additional reasons favoring the special inspiration of God’s Word. We admire the admirable spirit of Ellicott (Aids to Faith, Ep. 9—Comp. Ep. 8), who makes inspiration to embrace such an influence of the Spirit that the will and counsels of God are made a matter of knowledge, so that through the human media the truth is made recognizable, and that, while the individuality of the writer is conserved, the subject matter is presented in the fittest manner consistent with its commendation and reception. But to show—as in the doctrine of the kingdom—the Will and Counsel of God as fitted in all respects to commend itself to our reception, because most wonderfully adapted to man’s necessities, to society’s need, to a nation’s want, to the Church’s help and exaltation, to the saint’s happiness, and to God’s honor and glory—is forcibly extending such a definition in the line indicated by it. This we propose to perform.